At least 13 people are dead and dozens more are injured after two vehicle attacks in Spain on Thursday, which occurred about eight hours apart. It was the deadliest terror incident in Spain since a commuter-train bombing killed 191 people in 2004.
First a van plowed into a crowd of pedestrians in the popular tourist area of Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Police have three people in custody, but none are believed to be the driver, who fled the scene.
Then police said they had foiled another car attack in the seaside town of Cambrils, about 80 miles to the south. Six people were injured, including a police officer, when an Audi 3 plowed into a crowd. Police fatally shot five attackers, who were wearing fake explosive belts.
“They were fakes, but very well made, and it wasn’t until the bomb squad carried out the controlled explosion of one that they could determine they were fakes,” said Catalonia’s interior minister, Joaquim Forn.
Police are also investigating a possible connection between the incidents and a gas explosion the night before at a home in Alcanar, which left one dead and several others injured.
ISIS claimed responsibility shortly after the first attack, according to the militant group’s Amaq news agency. “The perpetrators of the Barcelona attack are soldiers of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls for targeting” the U.S.-led coalition battling the group, the agency said.
Las Ramblas is one of the city’s most popular areas, for both tourists and locals. Typically lined with street performers and shoppers, the pedestrian mall turned chaotic just after 4 p.m. local time.
“I saw people flying into the air and everyone was running into the shops on either side,” one witness told CNN.
“It was quite terrifying. All of a sudden scores of people ran towards us, hysterical, children hysterical … first of all they said someone had been shot,” another witness told Sky News. “All of a sudden a second wave of people came down the street, we just ran, I lost my husband in the melee. The shops went into lockdown mode.”
Police have identified Driss Oukabir as the man who allegedly rented the van used in the Barcelona attack some 15 miles north of the city. It’s still unclear if he was involved in the attack though. Authorities have also located a second suspicious van in the town of Vic, outside Barcelona. Reuters says local media previously reported that a second van was intended to be used as a getaway vehicle.
In a tweet, Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy Brey said, “The terrorists will never defeat a united people who love freedom from barbarism. All Spain is with the victims and families.”
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau responded in her own series of tweets, several in Spanish and one in English.
President Trump offered U.S. assistance to Spain in a tweet.
He followed that by referencing a debunked story about Army general John J. Pershing and suggesting that Muslim prisoners be murdered by bullets dipped in pig’s blood.
This post has been updated throughout.